Dear Journal: Fox Lingo

cute_sitting_fox_journalDear Journal,

When I was 10 I got my first journal, and I named it Fox because it had a painting of a fox on the cover. It was rather generic, but I was excited about it anyway. It was my excuse to go into my room and put my thoughts down on lined paper instead of scraps left over from shopping lists and whatnot.

Of course, as happy as I was having a journal at long last, I didn’t know how to begin writing in it. I had no precedent, and I knew no one else who admitted to keeping a journal, only girls with diaries. So I just took out a pen and started writing on page one. It went something like this:

Dear Fox, I am writing in you because I got you as a gift, and I don’t want you to be bored. I don’t know what I will tell you, but I promise I’ll keep you safe. Well, I can’t promise that because there is no lock on you, but I’ll keep you under my bed and no one ever goes under there. I’ll write in you more tomorrow.

I didn’t write in Fox that next day, or the one after it. I got busy with life, and it was three months before I wrote in him again (it took me forever to determine whether he was a girl or a boy). By that time I had pretty much forgotten why I needed a journal in the first place, but I came back to him anyway, and I’m glad I did. Because I finally had some secrets to put down on paper. And put those secrets down I did.

For the next several months I wrote in Fox more days than I didn’t, which was the beginning of getting my thoughts out, thoughts that I would never dare share with another living soul. When I look back at it now, though, it’s funny how irrelevant those secrets and thoughts really were back then.

Dear Fox, thanks for listening.


Standing Up: How to Deal

The great Richard Pryor

I wanted to be a stand-up comedian. Honestly. I thought all my problems would be solved if I could just laugh about them in front of an adoring audience that would then forgive me for all the horrible things I’ve done and clean the slate. Absolution with a touch of ribald humor, always a winner. Of course, my problem is that I’m horrible with a punchline. Ask anyone (except my children, they think I can do no wrong, and they love my “pig” punchlines). There’s something about timing, phrasing, pausing, you know, every single thing that makes or breaks a punchline. Simply put, my jokes just aren’t funny. I’m much better at random sarcasm.

So, how to deal with my problems, to get them out without being able to laugh at myself in front of an audience of my peers? Well, that’s what friends are for, right? My problem has always been in finding friends, though, and then once I’ve found them, maintaining them. Maybe it is my tendency to be randomly sarcastic that has something to do with not maintaining them, or perhaps it’s how often I laugh at myself. Maybe I just need therapy. If I talk to someone who has to listen because I’m paying her, would that solve all my problems? Continue reading “Standing Up: How to Deal”

We’re Going on 3, Right?

So, I’m doing the daily prompt today and I started thinking about prompts. As an English teacher, I was always trying to find different prompts for students to use when writing, and I love journaling in class, so it was a no-brainer that I needed a lot of prompts. And I would find them everywhere, from Facebook, to blogs, to websites specifically devoted to journal prompts, to friends of mine, but I had just one criteria for each one if I was to eventually use it. It had to inspire discussion, not just pat answers. So, most of the prompts I ended up choosing for school were ones that were somewhat controversial or inspired opinions that might have been difficult or different. Indeed, several prompts created heated discussions between students, something I always encourage in my classrooms.

One of the prompts I chose was, “If you could be anyone else in this classroom, who would you be and why?” It was so interesting the responses I got, which ranged from me (yeah, me, go figure) to their best friends, to students they hardly knew at all, and the reasons why were just as infinite. Some students wanted to be others because they sensed strength in them, or they wanted to be smarter, or they admired them for something the other student didn’t even realize about themselves. Then, I let the ones who wanted to share, share, and more than half of them read it aloud, when there wasn’t even an extra credit tag on it.

Another prompt I decided on had to do with laws. “In Pennsylvania there is a law on the books that it is illegal to sleep on top of a refrigerator outside.” Then, they had to decide why they thought the law was put into effect and find another law from another side that was also suitably bogus and would be nearly impossible to enforce. Kids found so many wild laws that they could talk about adequately, and the analytical skills it took to break down why they thought the laws were there in the first place were profound. Someone thought the refrigerator had to have been a new construct when the law was first put into place. Another one thought the temperature had to have been cold outside when that law was started. And the other laws they found were just as laughable.

I like prompts and journaling so much that I created a blog for my students so they could discuss these topics even outside of class. The best thing about the blog was that students could discuss and argue their points with not only students in their class, but also with students in my other classes too. It was wonderful to watch the debates that took place on that blog, to see the discussions that continued in class, and to see students interact with each other who never previously interacted in class. I also let them come up with prompts of their own, and those were doozies too, which I required other students to respond to, and I also actively took part. That was the other wonder of group journaling with prompts, that I learned just as much and it helped me focus my teaching to each group as well.

By the way, the daily prompt today is to set a timer and write for 10… oops, my time is up!


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